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MP Denise Phua apologises for describing large crowds at Little India as 'walking time-bombs'

SINGAPORE — Ms Denise Phua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, has apologised for her recent remarks in Parliament where she described the crowds in Little India as "walking time bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen".

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TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — Ms Denise Phua, an MP for Jalan Besar GRC, has apologised for her recent remarks in Parliament where she described the crowds in Little India as "walking time bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen".

Netizens have criticised her remarks for being insensitive to foreign workers. Ms Phua, who is also the Central Singapore District Mayor, responded with a Facebook post on Friday (April 8) saying she has "no intention to undermine any specific group".

She added: "I should not have used the phrase "walking time-bombs" to describe congregations of high density. I personally get along very well with the foreign cleaners in my constituency.

"To them and the other foreign workers in our country, thank you for your help and please accept my sincere apology if I have caused you concern."

Ms Phua's initial comments came on Wednesday during the debate on the Ministry of Home Affairs' (MHA) budget. 

Recounting a recent visit she paid to Little India with Mr K Shanmugam, the Law and Home Affairs Minister, Ms Phua said: "It was obvious that the pre-riot crowds have returned to Little India. Madam, congregations of such high density are walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen.

"It is important that we do not take our eyes off this matter lest we want history to repeat itself."

She also made five suggestions to beef up security in the area, including the setting up of a high-level task force to mitigate the risks of large crowds, and to ring fence "the communal areas of residents ,such as the playgrounds and void decks, so that the old and the young get to use the space meant for them."

Little India was rocked by a major riot involving 300 foreign workers on December 8 2013 after a fatal bus accident involving a construction worker. The incident sparked debates about overcrowding and security in public spaces.

The authorities stepped up police patrols in the area and subsequently curbed alcohol consumption in the area as well as Geylang. A nationwide ban on sales and public drinking of alcohol at night was also introduced in the aftermath of the riot.

Mr Desmond Lee, the senior minister of state for the MHA, assured on Wednesday that adequate measures were in place to prevent a repeat of the Little India riot.

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